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Teen Spoken-Word Poetry Champion to be Crowned Tonight

Those of you who read this space regularly know that I don't even attempt to cover up my love of poetry, especially in spoken-word form (see here, here, and here). So in that out-and-proud spirit, I want to tell you about tonight's national "Poetry Out Loud" championship.

The National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation team up for this annual event. In the months leading up to it, teenagers from across the country have been participating in competitions that establish state champions. Earlier this week, here in Washington, the competition narrowed to nine semifinalists. Tonight we will have a winner.

The competition, at the historic Lincoln Theater here in Washington, will be webcast live tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. EDT. You can watch it here.

But when I say "live," I mean it; the folks at the NEA tell me that this performance will not be archived. As crazy as I think that is—I pestered these poor folks with questions about it, since it would be such a great resource for teachers everywhere—it's true. One performance, tonight, live.

Even if they won't have this year's finals archived, however, Poetry Out Loud does have resources teachers can use to lure their students into poetry. (I will lower myself to begging here: Teachers, please-please-please take advantage of cool backdoor ways to get your students into poetry. Don't do what one of my daughters' English teachers did: put 99 percent of the class to sleep with dry readings of Browning. These are teenagers, for crying out loud, teenagers who thrive on rhythm, sound, movement, intensity.)

There's a teacher's guide, lesson plans and writing activities, video of the 2006 finals, audio clips of famous poets reading their work. General information about Poetry Out Loud is here, and information about how to participate is here.

Good luck to the competitors tonight, and long live spoken-word poetry!

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